The 2021 Lexus NX 300 and hybrid NX 300h are luxury compact SUV/crossovers. Not too big, not too small, easy to park, easy to live with. Their strengths include reliability, build quality and a pleasant driving experience — all Lexus staples.
Yes, the driving experience of the NX is pleasant, as opposed to involving and thrilling. Neither the 300’s turbocharged 4-cylinder nor the 300h’s hybrid system can deliver zippy acceleration. But not everything is about performance, as the hybrid’s impressive fuel economy demonstrates.
What’s New for 2021?
Lexus adds blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert to the list of standard equipment, along with power-folding/self-dimming side mirrors. The wiper blades have a revised, low-profile design.
A new color comes in: Nori Green Pearl. And one color goes out: Blue Vortex Metallic. The remote garage door opener migrates to the optional Navigation package.
And a Black Line Special Edition, based on the hybrid F Sport variant (NX 300h) is introduced, coming with specific cosmetic additions inside and out. See the 2021 Lexus NX models for sale near you
What We Like
- Excellent interior quality
- Generous rear legroom
- Reasonable starting price
- Hybrid version
- Superior reputation for service and reliability
What We Don’t
- Small cargo area for the segment
- Distracting and frustrating Remote Touch interface
- Unremarkable turbo engine
The 2021 NX 300 and its F Sport variant both have a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive (FWD) are standard. All-wheel drive (AWD) is optional.
Fuel consumption estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are 22 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in combined driving (FWD). Or 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined (AWD). Just one exception, the all-wheel-drive version of the F Sport achieves 22 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined.
The NX 300h hybrid joins a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine to three electric motors for a total system output of 194 hp. The front and rear axles both receive drive from their own dedicated electric motor, creating a particular sort of AWD that improves traction in rough weather, but isn’t suited to more demanding tasks.
Fuel consumption is 33 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/31 mpg combined.
Standard Features and Options
The 2021 Lexus NX comes in two versions differentiated by drivetrain: the gasoline-only NX 300 and the hybrid NX 300h. Lexus offers the NX 300 in base, F Sport and Luxury trims.
The NX 300h hybrid is available in base and Luxury trims, plus the new-for-2021 F Sport Black Line Edition.
All-wheel drive is standard in hybrid models, or an extra $1,400 in the regular NX 300. All prices include the $1,025 factory destination charge.
The NX 300 ($38,535) and NX 300h ($41,085) come with virtually the same standard equipment, including 17-in alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED fog lights, rear privacy glass, roof rails, keyless entry/ignition, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assistance, lane tracing, road sign recognition, self-dimming/power-folding side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power-adjustable front seats (with driver lumbar adjustment), power-adjustable steering column, leather-wrapped steering wheel, simulated leather upholstery, 60/40 split/fold/recline back seat, self-dimming rearview mirror, cargo cover, USB port, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, the Remote Touch tech interface (8-in display, center console touchpad controller), and an 8-speaker sound system with satellite/HD radio, CD player, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, Amazon Alexa compatibility and a media player interface.
The NX 300 F Sport ($40,635) comes with a sport-tuned suspension, 18-in alloy wheels, model-specific exterior and interior styling, heated/ventilated front sport seats, aluminum pedals, F Sport gauges and steering wheel, paddle shifters, mesh grille, black headliner, and a Sport S+ setting added to the selectable driving modes. An adaptive suspension is optional.
The NX 300 Luxury ($44,985) and 300h Luxury ($47,535) trims add 18-in alloy wheels, powered moonroof, front heated seats, rain-sensing wipers, memory settings for the driver’s seat and outboard mirrors, navigation, and a 10.3-in infotainment touchscreen.
The NX 300h F Sport Black Line Edition ($47,835) includes 18-in alloy wheels, black simulated leather upholstery, powered tilt/slide moonroof, and a two-piece luggage set from Zero Halliburton.
The optional Premium package brings 18-in wheels, upgraded running lights, powered moonroof, memory settings, and heated/ventilated front seats.
The Navigation package includes a 10.3-in display, navigation, Remote Touch interface, self-dimming rearview mirror with remote garage door opener, and two more speakers.
Other extras include a powered lift gate, 360-degree camera system, parking assistance, upgraded LED headlights, and a Mark Levinson surround-sound system. Luxury versions are also eligible for power-folding/reclining rear seats. Some option availability may vary according to region.
The NX offers one of the most comprehensive selections of standard features in the segment. In addition to mandatory anti-lock brakes and stability, there are eight airbags (front, front-side, side-curtain, driver knee, passenger under-seat) plus forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with lane tracing, road sign recognition, and lane keeping assistance.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the NX the maximum overall score of five stars, along with four stars for front impacts and five for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the NX the best possible ratings in every crash protection and prevention category, as well as those for headlights and user-friendly child seat anchors.
Behind the Wheel
The NX delivers a confident and secure drive, but it’s far from the sporty end of the spectrum. The F Sport adds some zest, but the ride can be a bit firm without the optional adaptive suspension. Competitors like the Acura RDX, BMW X1 and the surprisingly luxurious Mazda CX-5 offer a more memorable driving experience.
Also underwhelming is the NX’s engine selection. The basic 4-cylinder offers tepid acceleration (standstill to 60 mph in seven seconds) and mediocre fuel economy.
The hybrid is at least one of the thriftiest vehicles in the segment and a great way to save money at the pump. However, it’s even slower than its turbocharged stablemate, reaching 60 mph from a standstill in a leisurely nine seconds.
It isn’t the best to drive, then, but the NX deserves praise for its interior. This is yet another luxurious, comfortable Lexus SUV/crossover with meticulous build quality. Only the Remote Touch tech interface frustrates and distracts.
Rear passengers are in for special treatment, as Lexus has managed to incorporate more legroom in the NX than many rivals with greater exterior dimensions. That comes at the expense of cargo capacity, however, which is among the smallest of the class and closer to cargo capacities of vehicles a segment below, such as the BMW X1 and the Volvo XC40.
Other Cars to Consider
2021 Acura RDX — Has far more space for the money than the NX.
2021 Volvo XC40 — Like the X1, the XC40 is closer in price and size to the NX. Stylish and thoughtfully designed cabin.
2021 Mazda CX-5 — It doesn’t have a luxury badge, but in its top trims, the CX-5 is a luxurious, stylish and well equipped small SUV that should seriously be considered alongside the NX.
Used Lexus RX — Those needing more space than the NX should look at a used RX, which offers plenty of amenities, including an optional hybrid powertrain. Check out the Lexus certified pre-owned (CPO) program.
Questions You May Ask
What does the NX stand for in the 2021 Lexus NX?
The N stands for nimble, no doubt because of the vehicle’s compact dimensions, and the X signifies a crossover.
Does the 2021 Lexus NX require premium gasoline?
Turbocharged engines typically like premium gasoline and that’s the recommendation for the regular NX 300. However, the naturally aspirated combustion engine in the hybrid NX 300h uses regular gasoline, which contributes to keeping the fuel bills low.
Is the 2021 Lexus NX based on the previous-generation Toyota RAV4?
The platform is the same, but there are so many differences and upgrades that it’s not a fair comparison. This is an example of: “It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it.” Having said that, the NX is due for an update.
Assuming speed, dynamics and driving thrills are much less important than luxury, quality and reliability, then think about the NX 300h hybrid. Its annual fuel cost in 2020 was estimated by the EPA to be $1,050. That was $700 less than the turbocharged non-turbo NX 300 F Sport with all-wheel drive. Find a Lexus NX for sale